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Robert Alcon

Award-winning trooper named Mayflower police chief

By Tammy Keith

This article was published March 2, 2014 at 12:00 a.m.

Robert Alcon, the new Mayflower police chief, retired in February after a 28-year career with the Arkansas State Police, where he was on the SWAT team for many years. He was also employed by the Mayflower Police Department a few years ago as interim chief during a period of transition. Alcon said his goals for the department include providing additional officers, more training, upgraded equipment and a school-resource officer in every school.

Robert Alcon has spent almost 30 years having guns fired at him, chasing suspects and making arrests, and he’s signed up for another round.

Alcon, who lives in Vilonia with his wife, Pam, retired in February as a senior corporal with the Arkansas State Police after 28 years and immediately took the Mayflower position.

“I saw that it’s a good town, it just needed — not that I’m the answer to anything, but I have some good experience — I thought I could provide leadership,” Alcon said.

That leadership, along with a strong sense of duty to do right, was instilled in him by his late parents, Ben and Marina, who were Native Americans.

“Being Native American, I felt like we had to be a little above. We didn’t want people looking down on us because of our race,” he said.

He said his parents had high standards for him and his five sisters.

“Oooh,” he said, laughing about growing up in a house with six females. “I think I learned a little more sensitivity early in life being around that many women.”

His mother was a part-time teacher, and his father was in the Marines, then cross-trained to join the Air Force.

Alcon was born in Roswell, N.M., where his father was stationed and the family lived until Alcon was 7. When his dad was stationed at Little Rock Air Force Base in Jacksonville, the family bought a farm near Vilonia.

“We had a good life there. We had cattle. I got my first pony. We had a big garden,” he said.

When Alcon was about 8, his mother got breast cancer, which metastasized to her hip and brain.

“I never got to know my mother real good. My sisters try to honor her,” he said.

After his mother died, his father’s health went downhill, Alcon said.

“She was the rock,” Alcon said.

The family moved to Jacksonville, and Alcon played football and basketball, and ran track.

“I loved football. Sports was my way of escape,” he said. “I was a sportsaholic.”

He later played wide receiver at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway under coach Ken Stephens.

Alcon left UCA after almost two years to join the Air Force.

“Those were the best years of my life,” he said. “I like organization, and I like routine, and that’s what the service is.”

Alcon said that when he went to the base with his father, he was enamored with the airplanes.

“My whole thing was I wanted to be a pilot,” he said, but that’s not the path he took.

“That dream kind of died,” he said.

After going to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio for basic training, he was stationed in Illinois, then for a short time in Missouri before landing in Grand Forks, N.D.

“It sounded pretty good to a 20-something-year-old. They said, ‘There’s a girl behind every tree.’ Then you get there, and there are no trees,” he said, laughing. “It’s flat, flat. Sunflower fields everywhere.”

“I worked with Minuteman missiles I and II, and loaded the warheads on the missiles,” he said.

Alcon lived with one of the missile teams, which he said was like a family, in the silo three or four days a week as teams rotated.

“It’s big. We had a rec room and a kitchen there. It’s really awesome to see the technology, even back then,” he said.

The warheads had to be rotated every two weeks, Alcon said.

“The cage man would drop down into the silo and take off 100 bolts to remove the warhead,” he said.

“We could see down into the top of it. It’s not what you would think a warhead would look like. They were just a lot smaller than I thought a nuclear warhead would look like. It’s scary to see what technology can do, the devastation,” he said.

A new warhead would be secured, and they’d go to the next one.

They were installing the “P-plug and W tape,” Alcon said, which were instructions to tell the missiles where to go if they were launched.

“I think we did that so no one would know exactly where the missile was going,” he said.

“After seeing what a nuclear weapon can do, I think mankind is almost too powerful,” he said.

He had been in North Dakota for 2 1/2 years when he left to re-enroll at UCA.

Alcon said he had hurt his ankle, so he didn’t play football again, and he finished his military time in the Reserve while going to school.

He majored in criminal justice.

“In the Air Force, I hung out with the security police. I think that’s where I got my first taste of law enforcement,” he said.

In Grand Forks, he said, he would get permission to ride with the security police.

“It really interested me. I thought, ‘We’re doing something good for the community.’”

After he graduated from UCA, he applied at several places, including the Conway Police Department, the Arkansas State Highway Police and the Arkansas State Police.

“It was really weird. I couldn’t get on with anybody. I thought, ‘Gosh, maybe I’m barking up the wrong tree,’” he said.

Then, in a 10-day period, he got offers from the Arkansas State Police and the Conway Police Department and was invited to start the process to join the highway police.

“My dad always loved the troopers,” he said. “He thought they wore the sharpest-looking uniforms.”

Alcon said he and his father decided together that he would join the state police.

Alcon’s first assignment was in Siloam Springs; then he came to Troop J in Faulkner County right before 1989.

“I spent almost 23 years in Faulkner County. I think I’m the longest-serving officer in Arkansas in Faulkner County,” he said.

Alcon said that toward the end of 2007, he had two seizures, and the state police placed him on medical leave.

He was at home during the first episode and thought he had just fainted.

When the second one happened, he was on U.S. 65 between Conway and Greenbrier, and he and other troopers planned to stop for coffee, he said.

“I felt a little tingle in my neck,” he said. “It didn’t feel right — you know your body.” He pulled into a grocery-store parking lot.

“The next thing I knew, I remember an EMT asking me my name, ‘What year is it? Who’s the president?’ I answered all the questions.”

Alcon was diagnosed with a mild form of epilepsy.

While he was on leave and was cleared to drive, he worked as a sergeant at the Mayflower Police Department and spent about three months as interim chief at the end of 2009 when the former chief was charged with a felony. Alcon was reinstated by the state police in 2010.

From there, he worked in Grant County for almost 2 1/2 years in Troop K.

It was in Grant County that he received a Lifesaving Award.

He was on patrol on U.S. 167 near Sheridan in June 2012 when he saw a truck speeding, going 73 in a 60 mph zone, he said.

Alcon said he debated for a second about whether to pull the vehicle over and decided to do it.

“I start to follow him, and after just a few seconds, … I see smoke coming out from the back of the pickup.”

He said the large SUV spun around and went into a ditch.

Alcon ran to the vehicle and could see people inside.

“I grab my baton and bust the back window,” he said. There were six people in the Ford Excursion, he said.

Alcon asked if anyone was missing, and he was told they couldn’t find one young woman.

“I could see some red hair sticking out underneath the truck,” he said.

Alcon called for help, and he said “three or four good-sized men” arrived. He told them to help him lift the vehicle, and Alcon asked a smaller man to pull out the woman when they did.

“We lifted that truck 3 feet off the ground with just the adrenaline,” he said.

The woman wasn’t breathing.

“Lo and behold, an Army medic stopped. I’m sorry to say I didn’t get his name,” Alcon said. “I wanted to nominate him for an award. He got her breathing again.”

Alcon served on the Arkansas State Police Special Response Team and SWAT teams for 18 years and received a commendation from the colonel for a SWAT team callout, he said. Alcon has received the Valor Award.

“I’ve been in several shootings and had to shoot a couple of people as part of the team,” he said.

One was a breaking and entering at a pawn shop in Harrison, he said, where one of the suspects wouldn’t come out.

“When he started shooting at us, we had to take action,” Alcon said.

Another man, who had exchanged gunfire with a state trooper a couple of days earlier, had barricaded himself inside a home in Pine Bluff, and Alcon entered with other officers.

“It was suicide by cop,” Alcon said.

“That was a very hard time in my life. Whoever says taking a human life is easy doesn’t have a conscience, in my book,” Alcon said.

“I’ve been shot at … probably three times. I’ve seen my share of the crazy side of law enforcement,” he said.

In another incident in 2000, a suspect wanted on drug charges was eluding authorities, and Alcon met him on the highway, and they had a vehicle chase until the suspect wrecked.

“I chased him on foot through the woods,” Alcon said. “I crashed into a pretty good-sized limb. I didn’t realize I had cracked my ribs at the time.”

Despite his broken ribs, Alcon caught the Vilonia man.

Alcon, who graduated from several SWAT schools, said that although it may seem silly, one of his greater accomplishments is making it through a class in Meridian, Miss., called Extreme Fighting. Officers learned hand-to-hand combat in case they couldn’t get to their weapons. (Think Matt Damon in The Bourne Identity.)

Alcon said he’s had two-a-day practices in football, and they were nothing compared with this.

“I’ve never been more sore than I was there. The only thing that didn’t hurt was the top of my head,” he said.

Alcon’s last assignment with the Arkansas State Police was in White County, where he worked for 1 1/2 years.

Mayflower Police Chief Robert Satkowski resigned, and Alcon applied.

Alcon said Mayor Randy Holland told him he needed a “strong, honest leader for the Police Department.”

“He has a great resumé,” Holland said in early February.

“He’s been with the state police a long time, and he’s retiring, which was real good for me,” Holland said. “He was on the SWAT team. I’m very fortunate.”

“I think the state police has trained me well,” Alcon said.

Alcon’s goals for the department include offering more training for the officers, hiring more officers and upgrading equipment.

The department has seven officers now, including Alcon, and two part-time officers.

“I want every officer to have a Taser,” he said.

Alcon is certified to carry one, but not to train officers. He said the Mayflower officers will receive training before carrying a Taser.

“They’re a good bunch of men, and they work hard,” he said.

Two are former Pulaski County deputies, one with 17 years’ experience, another with 13.

“I have some help from a great sergeant, Jeremy Hanson. He’s kept the department afloat. He served as interim chief,” Alcon said.

“The mayor has been very supportive to me and this department … trying to get us what we need.”

Alcon said he has met with Mayflower School District Superintendent John Gray about putting a school resource officer in every school.

The police chief took his officers on a tour Feb. 21 to all the schools.

“I want them to be familiar with the schools,” he said.

“This is a big school system. An SRO is very much justified here.”

He said if a school shooting ever occurred, an officer would need to be there immediately.

As it is everywhere in the state, Alcon said, methamphetamine is a problem, as well as thefts and traffic violations.

“I think that we can be as good as any small-town department,” he said.

And Alcon’s standards are high.

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

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